2004: Features - Puffball Jim a testing fool

Yes, I test clubs. No, I am not Iron Byron.

I am Puffball Jim, and people ask me all the time about golf clubs. What do I like? Why do I like it?

I have a standard response: I am so crazy about golf that testing equipment is as much fun to me as shooting a low score.

However, being incisive about golf equipment is far different from being infatuated with it. Coming out of the 2004 PGA Merchandise Show, here are 10 serious reflections on modern golf equipment.

No. 1: The Mizuno AeroFrame is the best carry bag I have ever used. It has lightweight aluminum tubes that provide a rigidity that I like. Furthermore, this bag is exceptionally versatile. It’s at home on your back, a pull cart or a motorized cart. It will never collapse from lack of support.

Because it has a tubular bottom, it even stands straight up by itself. One drawback: Airport baggage inspectors are attracted like a magnet to this bag. Your travel case will be opened virtually every time.

No. 2: The new CG10 wedges from Cleveland definitely have a buttery soft feel. Credit the Carbon Metal Matrix material used in the clubheads.

The real question, though: Do wedges need a softer feel? Many players think the old Cleveland wedges are just fine, thank you. For more than 10 years, Cleveland has been the overall wedge leader on the PGA Tour. The popular 588 Cleveland wedge was designed way back in May 1988 (thus the 588 designation).

At the recent Buick Invitational, won by John Daly, Cleveland had 125 wedges in play. Of that total, only seven were the new CG10. (Three of those seven CG10 wedges at the Buick were in the bag of Daly, but Cleveland can’t advertise this fact because Daly isn’t under contract.)

If you ask me, the best thing about these new wedges is the choice in bounce angle. Except for the 52-degree model, the CG10 wedges are available in standard, low or high bounce. These three choices offer a tremendous benefit to golfers who must face different conditions and different sand textures.

No. 3: The new titanium and graphite combination fairway woods from Callaway and Mizuno are wonderful. Both feature clubheads with a titanium sole and graphite body. The Callaway Fusion and the Mizuno MP-001 fairway woods will enable most golfers to get the ball up in the air, even from the tightest of lies.

Both companies, of course, offer drivers in the same family.

Yonex also has a combo titanium-graphite driver, the Cyberstar PowerBrid, and no golf manufacturer has as much experience with graphite heads as Yonex.

No. 4: Getting the ball up in the air has become one of my preoccupations, so I love the new MacGregor V-Foil M455 irons. “Massive weight low and deep” is the way it was phrased to me by Barry Schneider, MacGregor’s CEO. I believe him, because even the long irons seem to catapult the ball up into the air.

Most game improvement irons are cast from stainless steel. This one is forged from carbon steel. Thus it has a marvelous feel and easily can be bent for loft and lie.

Don’t be surprised to see some touring pros try the M455, particularly the long irons.

No. 5: Several years ago in Japan I was introduced to the concept of long irons being replaced by hybrid woods. I had never seen full sets without long irons, but Japanese designers were smart and inventive. In the United States, Adams has embraced this concept more than any other company.

The Adams Idea is a set of clubs that combines hybrid I-Woods (replacing the long irons) with hollow-back mid-irons and cavity-back short irons. Guess what? These clubs are a lot of fun to use, and they produce the higher trajectory needed by most golfers.

There are four variations of the Adams Idea, including one for women.

No. 6: Dunlop clubs and balls are available from sporting goods stores and off-course retailers. In most cases, Dunlop equipment represents an exceptional bargain.

This makes John Daly’s victory in the Buick Invitational all the more impressive. He used Dunlop’s RG irons, Redneck putter and Custom Series golf ball in winning the event. The ball was approved by the U.S. Golf Association just days before the tournament, and Dunlop was able to deliver only 30 balls to Daly. No problem.

No. 7: The new Ping Craz-E is a big, blue putter that is causing a buzz. However, Ping has another yet-to-be-released putter with the biggest head in golf. Unofficially called The Doc, this putter is mammoth. It looks somewhat like the Titleist Futura, except that The Doc appears to be taking putter growth hormone.

No. 8: Callaway’s new Big Bertha driver will sell in golf shops and stores for less than $300. This is a titanium-headed driver that really goes. What I especially like is that this club appears to have a slight draw bias, meaning the elimination of many of those drives that seem to hang to the right.

Let me state, though, that the USGA’s limit on spring-like effect has enabled many older drivers to maintain their integrity. I know I can play as well with an out-of-production TaylorMade 360 or Titleist 975 as anything else.

No. 9: Bite golf shoes make OS models that accommodate orthotics without compromising the fit or feel of the shoe. I have worn orthotics in my running shoes for years. So why haven’t I used them in my golf shoes? Because I was wearing the wrong shoes.

No. 10: I avoid most training aids like the plague, but the Inside Approach really works. Here’s what I’ve found: Not only does this ingenious little device promote an inside-out swing path, but it also helps develop a fully extended takeaway on the backswing.

I test, therefore I am Puffball Jim.

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